Our industry finds itself on the cusp of an inflection point, with the VOD businesses that disrupted the linear TV model now seeking to diversify their operations. Interestingly, however, this is a familiar pattern we can trace back in time.
In the not-so-distant past, Pay-TV also saw rapid early growth based on a highly successful subscription model before reaching a natural plateau. And to break past it, businesses sought ad-sales opportunities to generate new revenue streams.
As the model evolved, network operators quickly realized the value of audience measurement: in order to trade ads and have good CPMs, you need good metrics and validation to reassure the market.
Repeating the pattern
What I anticipate next, therefore, is a repeat of the established pattern. To date, native VOD platforms have not been especially involved in audience measurement, but they too will soon find it a business imperative as they diversify their own models.
Native VOD platforms will want accurate audience figures reported to the market; while they’ve been very effective in understanding what happens within their platform - it’s imperative for them to access reliable data on their competitors; and advertisers and content producers will want an authoritative, trusted data source.
Our future challenges
Today’s market has some key differences though. The sheer complexity of the contemporary landscape is staggering, bringing with it more risk, uncertainty and competition.
Indeed, what was once just a ‘TV market’ has – thanks to Internet delivery (IP), device and platform proliferation, and new viewing forms – diversified into an intricate ‘AV ecosystem’.
Today, many people even struggle to describe what TV actually is; it’s a question that the industry – as demonstrated in the UK and Brazil in 2022 – have brought to the fore to capture metrics on shifting media consumption.
That means unlocking audiences as a whole looking at multiple viewing forms, and working towards holistic measurement that is reflective of both market and consumer dynamics.
A better view of the market
Fortunately, a lot of the technologies already developed – such as watermarking or audio matching – will help meet these challenges. But this time we will need to go further, because one other crucial difference today is the proliferation of data sources.
Broadcasters, platforms, device manufacturers and advertisers each sit on a wealth of data. But it will never be truly fit for purpose if used only in isolation. An SVOD platform might know a lot about its viewers, but it won’t have the same understanding of the rest of the market, for example.
Panels: the ground-truth
To that end, leveraging first-party big data and integrating different data sources requires something unique to tie it together: high-quality, fully consented, sample-based panels. They are the bedrock upon which disparate and siloed data sources are integrated, and the future will see them increasingly move towards a more holistic model in line with a fragmented and growing AV ecosystem.
And those who still don’t understand the power of audience measurement in helping competitive businesses ‘look over the wall’, so to speak, will certainly re-evaluate once they witness their competitors using it to read the market better, and developing audience and revenue growth strategies as a direct consequence.